Daily Dupaco

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When a bill doesn't add up, pick up the phone

Sometimes, it pays to be persistent.

When my family started receiving bills from a couple of routine doctor's appointments, we were stunned by the high totals we were being asked to pay out of pocket.

Rather than simply pay the bills, I picked up the phone.

After a series of phone calls, I found out that we were being billed about $360 in "facility charges," on top of the doctor's regular fees.

The medical center's billing policy is spelled out in its handbook, but I was never offered one - until after I questioned the bills. I politely but firmly told the medical center that its billing policy should have been spelled out upfront.

The medical center apologized for the lack of communication - and acknowledged that it's been an ongoing problem with other patients - and generously waived the $360 in "facility charges."

It really does pay to monitor your bills, statements and other financial documents. And it's important to speak out when something doesn't add up.

If you have questions about a bill, consider these simple steps provided by Laura Chavez, a dispute resolutions specialist at the Better Business Bureau in Des Moines:

  1. Try to communicate with the company first. "Open the lines of communication," she says. "There's often an explanation behind it, and oftentimes they're not flat out trying to scam you." Many times, the miscommunication or misunderstanding can be easily resolved. 
  2. If you still have questions, ask the company for an itemized statement that spells out the charges.
  3. If you remain dissatisfied, the Better Business Bureau is often able to assist consumers and businesses reach a mutual agreement through its Dispute/Resolution services. To file a complaint, visit the Better Business Bureau online or call 1-800-222-1600. 
  4. Due to each situation being unique, when the Better Business Bureau is unable to help both parties reach a fair resolution, litigation can be pursued.

By Emily Kittle

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